Understanding Intellectual Property Rights
Meaning, Types and Relevance in Business
by Sheetal Nair
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are intangible in nature and give exclusive rights to the inventor or creator for their valuable invention or creation. In the present scenario of globalization, IPR is the focal point in global trade practices and livelihoods across the world. These rights boost the innovative environment by giving recognition and economic benefits to the creator or inventor whereas the lack of IPR awareness and its ineffective implementation may hamper the economic, technical and societal developments of a nation. Hence, dissemination of IPR knowledge and its appropriate implementation is the utmost requirement for any nation. The present paper highlights various terms of IPR such as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, geographic indications, copyright, etc. with their corresponding need and role, especially about the Indian context.
Intellectual Property (IP) is an ‘intangible asset’ that one has acquired out of one’s intellect, innovation and creativity. It is called an ‘Intellectual Property’ because it originates in the minds of individuals before being reduced to material form.
To promote, cultivate and reward this innovation and creativity, it is extremely essential to protect Intellectual Properties. IP protection for homegrown businesses is as important as that for a corporate house for the simple reason that an ‘idea’ that is sought to be protected can be either a big or a small one, and can belong to anybody or organization. It becomes important for everyone who deals with Intellectual Properties or owns it, to understand what it constitutes and why and how to ensure that they are protected. Intellectual Property Rights are sought as recourse to protect an Intellectual Property, so that genuine efforts of an individual or an organization do not get wasted because of someone copying someone else’s ideas or inventions.
IP protection for homegrown businesses is as important as that for a corporate house for the simple reason that an ‘idea’ that is sought to be protected can be either a big or a small one, and can belong to anybody or organization
There are various types of Intellectual Properties like – Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents, Designs, Geographical Indications, Trade Secrets etc.
Every enterprise has a ‘trademark’ that looks like a logo, which differentiates it from other enterprises in the same industry dealing with apparently similar products. These trademarks are registered under the IP laws of that country, which enables the respective enterprise to use the trademark exclusively to their advantage, disallowing other enterprises or individual entities to use it. In India, trademarks and related disputes are regulated by the Trademarks Act, 1999 and the Trademarks Rules, 2017. Every Trademark needs to have a ‘distinctive character’ which differentiates it from other goods and services in the same industry. They should also be away from being ‘deceptively similar' to other trademarks. For eg., the Leading soft drink company Coca Cola’s trademark consists of the curved design of the bottle and the phrase ‘Coca-Cola’ written in flowing handwriting. This differentiates it from others in the soft drink industry.
They are sought by businesses and individuals dealing with literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They may include books, photographs and sound recordings etc.
Copyrights are always for a limited period, after which they pass into the public domain. Fair use of copyrighted work is one statutory limitation on the rights of a copyright holder.
In India, copyrights are regulated by the Copyright Act, 1957 and Copyright Rules, 2013. For eg., A textbook published by the Oxford University Press is copyrighted with the said press as its copyright holder.
The following literary and artistic works are covered under copyrights:
Literary and scientific works, novels, poems, reference works, newspapers, plays, books, pamphlets, magazines, journals, etc.
Musical work: songs, instrument musical, choruses, solos, bands, orchestras, etc.
Artistic works: such as painting, drawings, sculpture, architecture, advertisements, etc.
Photographic work: portraits, landscape, fashion or event photography, etc.
Motion pictures: it includes cinematography works such as film, drama, documentary, newsreels, theatrical exhibition, television broadcasting, cartoons, videotape, DVDs, etc.
Computer programs: computer programmes, software and their related databases, Maps and technical drawings.
Patents and Designs:
A patent gives an exclusive right to an inventor to exclude anyone else from commercially exploiting their invention, for a limited period of time, subject to the patent laws of the land. In India, patents are regulated by the Patents Act, 1970 and the Patent Rules, 2003. For eg, Covid vaccines by various firms like Bharat Biotech, Moderna, Pfizer etc. are patented drugs of the respective firms.
The rationale behind the protection of ‘Designs’ is that it encourages creativity in the industrial and manufacturing sectors and fosters the economic development of a nation. In India, Designs are regulated by the Designs Act, 2000 and Designs Rules, 2001. Several other known Intellectual Properties are- Geographical Indications (GIs), Trade Secrets and Plant varieties. For eg, An architectural blueprint or a circuit diagram can be protected as a Design.
IPR and Business
A ‘self-developed idea’ and its ‘commercial use’ are very important for a business or enterprise to succeed and flourish.
An Intellectual Property acts as a silent brand ambassador for one’s business and it is important to protect it so that it is saved from unscrupulous entities attempting to use it to their advantage and thereby causing unimaginable harm to the business entity to which the ‘idea’ originally belongs to.
If a proper remedy is not sought in the said circumstances, it may lead to huge financial losses for any corporation and their reputation earned through years of good service will be on a toss. Therefore, people in the business industry need to know about ‘owning an idea’ and their legal remedies in case of infringements. Protection under IP laws in a given set-up promotes healthy growth.
Proper and timely utilization of IP Rights ensures that products and services that go out to serve the consumers are genuine. In case of rampant infringements, consumers would be skeptical to use a particular good or service, which would eventually and undoubtedly affect the market of the enterprise. This will gradually discourage the investors from pursuing new and genuine ideas, thereby adversely affecting the economical, industrial and technological growth of the entire industry and the country as a whole. Recording industries, software companies, and publishing houses would not even exist without IP Protections.
all individuals and entities, be it big or small, need to realize the importance of an intangible asset like IPR and start being more careful about protecting them from being infringed and in the process, contributing to healthy growth for their respective industries. IPR protections help in building the intellectual capital of a business.
Therefore, it is essential for entrepreneurs, and others in the industry, to understand Intellectual Property Rights and legal remedies available in a setup to ensure a friendly business environment.
Adv. Sheetal Nair is a Partner, Corporate Legal Practice & IP, ASA Mumbai. She is associated in the General Corporate and IP practice at ASA. She has experience in general corporate and advisory work, primarily focused on Contractual documentation and Intellectual Property, and has advised and represented clients in litigations and arbitrations involving commercial or transactional issues.
She can be reached at email@example.com.